Police spending is one of the most combustible subjects in Los Angeles. The protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and demands to defund law enforcement, prompted Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council to trim department spending by $150 million in the fiscal year that began July 1. More fuel was poured onto the fire this week when the council, confronting an economy ravaged by COVID-19, declared a fiscal emergency and voted to furlough thousands of city employees, resulting in an effective pay cut of 10 percent, though police officers will not have their hours cut (nor will firefighters, nurses, librarians and some other workers).
The situation ratcheted even higher when Councilman Mike Bonin called for delaying a scheduled pay hike for LAPD officers. In an L.A. Times op-ed on Thursday, the District 11 rep lambasted the 4.8 percent raise happening this year (it takes place in two phases) and another pay increase scheduled for next year, at the same time that the city is making $104 million in salary cuts. He blamed the Los Angeles Police Protective League, charging that the union that represents rank-and-file officers won’t entertain delaying the pay increases (which were negotiated well before the economic crisis).
Largely overlooked amid the debate is what police personnel earn. Garcetti’s budget for the current fiscal year allocates approximately $1.75 billion for LAPD salaries; the entire department budget is approximately $3 billion (including pensions and other expenses).
Police pay varies greatly, but one thing is clear: working for the LAPD can mean a generous salary, with some eye-popping add-ons. Here are some of the pay details, and perks, that come with the difficult and stress-inducing job.
Minimum wage in the city of Los Angeles is $15 per hour (it’s $14.25 for businesses with 25 or fewer employees). Even the newest LAPD initiate earns more than twice that amount.
According to the department’s recruitment website, those hired by the department and enrolled in the Police Academy earn approximately $32.35 an hour, or $67,546 annually. That jumps to $71,242 for the 12 months that an employee is on the job as a trainee (during which time she or he partners with an experienced officer). Once that training period ends, the salary jumps to $76,379.
This pay plateau can rise even higher depending on one’s resume. Full-time officers who boast two years of military or prior law enforcement experience earn $79,344. There’s an educational incentive, too: an officer with an Associate’s degree gets a $190 biweekly bounce; it’s $290 biweekly with a bachelor’s degree.
The recruitment website spells out the benefits that come from sticking with the job. These perks are the result of the contract hammered out by city negotiators and the LAPPL, a union with roots that date to the 1920s. The LAPPL, which like other police unions has come under fire from reform advocates, became its own entity in 1973. It serves as the representative and bargaining unit for department employees with the rank from police officer to lieutenant.
According to the recruitment website, the average “step increase” is $4,409 a year, and there is an annual 1.5 percent cost of living boost. The salary page on the website declares that full-time officers receive a raise “every year while in the same position.”
All About the Benefits
LAPD employees can enroll in health and dental plans. They can also participate in the Los Angeles Fire & Police Pension program. According to the membership statement for the quarter that ended June 30, the plan’s 9,086 “service pensioners” retired at an average age of just over 52. These individuals receive an average monthly benefit of $6,783.
Other benefits might spark envy. Sworn LAPD personnel get 12 fully paid sick days a year, five additional days with 75 percent pay, and another five sick days at 50 percent. Additionally, there are 13 paid floating holidays each year, along with 15 vacation days. After 10 years of service, the number of vacation days escalates to 23 per year.
Working for the LAPD is rarely a five-day-a-week, 9-to-5 gig. Many officers work a “compressed schedule” that can mean more days off. Options include working four 10-hour shifts per week, or three 12-hour days.
The Big Numbers
According to the LAPD’s website, the department currently has 9,904 sworn personnel, and 2,961 civilian employees. The latter group will be impacted by the city furloughs, with the result that officers could be shifted to fill some staffing needs.
For years city leaders sought to maintain a level of 10,000 sworn personnel, but the ranks are likely to decline. A June 19 report from city Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso and City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn said that by next summer, with hiring slowing, the LAPD is expected to have 9,757 sworn personnel.
The ABCs of OT
Overtime hours for first responders are par for the course. A report prepared by City Controller Ron Galperin last November declared that “overtime is built into the staffing models for sworn firefighters and police officers to ensure public safety during emergencies.” The report, titled “On the Clock,” found that in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the city paid $470 million in overtime, with police and firefighters accounting for 77% of that.
Digging deeper, “On the Clock” reveals that 84 percent of LAPD employees received some overtime pay during the year. The LAPD notched $167.1 million in overtime in 2018-19 (a figure surpassed by the Fire Department’s $192.7 million in overtime spending). Personnel with the rank from police officer to lieutenant accounted for 94% of the LAPD’s overtime hours.
Galperin also maintains a database dubbed Payroll Explorer, which details personnel spending across the entire city. Its most recent figures, from the calendar year 2018, reveal that 20 LAPD employees that year earned more than $100,000 in overtime, with some making more in OT than they did on their base salary. That includes an officer who padded his or her $110,000 salary with $149,414 in overtime. Add in additional expenditures and the person’s total compensation was almost $289,000.
Payroll Explorer reveals that the median pay for full-time LAPD employees in 2018 was $112,627. That’s below the LAFD median level of $157,930, but far above the city department with the third-highest payroll, Los Angeles World Airports. The median LAWA salary in 2018 was $70,409.
The database doesn’t identify individuals by name, but it does reveal positions and salary totals, which in many cases are boosted by overtime. In 2018, 245 LAPD employees surpassed the $200,000 barrier. That includes 66 individuals with the rank of police officer.
The big numbers keep on coming. More than 1,900 department employees that year made north of $150,000. Over 5,100 individuals pulled in more than $125,000. Keep cruising through the database and you’ll find that, between base pay, overtime and other pay and benefits, more than 9,100 LAPD employees that year received total compensation in the six figures.
At the Top
In 2019, Police Chief Michel Moore had a salary of about $353,000, according to the public pay website TransparentCalifornia.com. That put him ahead of Garcetti, whose salary that year, according to the site, was approximately $273,000.
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